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Low Down: Junk, Jazz And Other Fairy Tales From Childhood by A.J. Albany

The afterword to Low Down states: “A.J. Albany lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two children, Charlie and Dylan.” Coming behind Albany’s recounting of a bizarre, psyche-threatening childhood makes this ordinarily pedestrian information somewhat of an astounding revelation.

Amy Jo Albany is the daughter of legendary bebop pianist Joe Albany, who played with Lester Young and Charlie Parker in the 1940s and achieved status in the jazz underground but whose career was seriously impeded by drug addiction. It wasn’t until the ’70s, when he was able to tour and record in Europe, that Joe Albany received some belated recognition both abroad and here.

In her foreword Albany explains: “There has always been an absence of information regarding my father’s whereabouts during the ’60s. It wasn’t a musically productive period for him, but it’s when I knew him best. If he wasn’t in jail or rehab, we were together.”

Amy Jo was born in 1962. In the early years her mother was there in body if not always in spirit. Then her father became a single parent, pinch-hit for in his absences by his mother and sisters. When Joe emerged from a three-month stay at a rehabilitation center in 1968, he and his daughter moved into a hotel on Hollywood Boulevard. It began her journey into sadistic schools, seedy bars, seamy streets and a surrounding cast of misfits: over-the-hill vaudevillians, bust-out gamblers, hookers, strippers, junkies, pedophiles, pornographers and other perverts. But she also got to hang with Louis Armstrong and Erroll Garner!

In this poetic, pre- and post-adolescent recollection, A. J. confronts reality but also give us fantasy and humor in a distinctive voice. Despite her clear view of life’s lows she always has hope and, with all his flaws, the love of her father, which she returns.

Originally Published